Can India be run entirely by renewables in the future?

Can India be run entirely by renewables in the future?

A clean energy future is on top of every country’s sustainability agenda today, which is evidenced by the large-scale expansion of sustainable power projects worldwide. European nations, for example, seem to be in a race to outdo one another in their renewable energy accomplishments. In 2015, Denmark generated 140 percent of its electricity requirements on one particularly windy day from wind turbines alone, the excess of which was exported to Germany, Norway and Sweden. And last May, Germany came remarkably close to being completely run by clean energy for a day due to a surge in wind and solar power. That same month, Portugal was powered solely by renewable sources for 107 hours, which is roughly four-and-a-half days, setting the bar higher. But the Central American nation of Costa Rica beat all the European countries with its landmark achievement in green energy in 2016. For more than 250 days last year, the country used zero fossil fuels and drew its electricity from hydropower plants, wind turbines and geothermal plants. Thanks to such efforts, the notion that renewables can run a whole country is no longer unfathomable. In fact, it is now an ideal to aspire to.

India, however, is far from reaching that ideal any time soon. But it does have tremendous potential. And the government has set itself rather ambitious goals to utilise said potential, which have caught the interest of global investors. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) intends to scale up clean power production to 175 gigawatts (GW) by 2022, of which 100GW will be solar energy alone. As of now our solar capacity is at 8GW, and if the ministry wants to fulfill its agenda within the stipulated time, they would have to increase production by 15GW annually for the remaining six years. That’s a tough ask. In actuality, upsizing the renewables base in India will be far more challenging than in any of the countries mentioned above. Those nations apportion substantially higher funds relative to the requirements as well as provide strong incentives to reel in private investment. Not to mention, their energy requirements are considerably lower. But India faces multiple limitations that need to be taken into account and addressed before we reach the 2022 milestone, let alone be powered entirely by renewables.

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Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimated that India would require US 100 billion dollars in financing to realise the aforementioned vision. However, in 2015, cumulative public and private investment amounted to 10.2 billion dollars, less than half the required 26.3 billion. And considering this year’s budget allocation of 809 million dollars to MNRE, the state will require heavy private funding to meet the annual target as well as catch up with the lag from the previous year –  as of December 2016, solar capacity was increased by only 2,150 megawatts (MW) against the intended target of 12,000MW for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The energy ministry is trying to cover the capital gap by attracting domestic and foreign private investors. So far, it has been successful in obtaining a $20-billion commitment from Japan-based Softbank, in partnership with Taiwan’s Foxconn and India’s Bharati Enterprises, as well as $2 billion from French company Électricité de France (EDF). Read More…



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